New Brunswick

Murder trial hears details of morning Matthew Raymond fired fatal shots at 4 people

Both sides in Matthew Raymond's murder trial agree on a detailed account of what happened on Fredericton's north side two years ago, when Raymond shot two police officers and two civilians dead from his apartment window.

1st-degree murder trial in Fredericton could last four to six weeks

Matthew Vincent Raymond was arrested in August 2018 after the fatal shootings of two Fredericton police constables and two civilians. (Andrew Vaughan/Canadian Press)

When Const. Sara Burns and Const. Robb Costello responded to a call of shots fired, they arrived at a Fredericton parking lot where two people were already injured.

As they got out of their car, they saw two other people standing unharmed over the body of a man.

But as Costello and Burns approached, they were fatally shot.

Crown prosecutor Jill Knee described this scene on her opening statement on the first day of the first-degree murder trial of Matthew Vincent Raymond. The 50-year-old pleaded not guilty Tuesday to four counts of first-degree murder of Burns, Costello, Donnie Robichaud, and Bobbie Lee Wright.

CBC News reporter Elizabeth Fraser recounts the first day of the trial of Matthew Raymond, who is charged with four counts of first-degree murder in the deaths of two Fredericton police officers and two civilians. 1:09

The fact that he was the shooter is not in dispute, but his defence team will be arguing he's not criminally responsible for the act.

Knee told the jury the Crown will be arguing Raymond had planned the killing of Robichaud and Wright, and that he had intent to kill Burns and Costello.

The Crown intends to call the two people who stood by Robichaud's body as witnesses. 

"This evidence will show that his actions were planned and with purpose," she said. "He targeted" the four victims.

Crown prosecutors Jill Knee, right, and Darlene Blunston enter court of the first day of Matthew Raymond's criminal trial. (Shane Fowler/CBC)

Both sides in Raymond's murder trial agree on a detailed account of what happened on Fredericton's north side two years ago.

On Tuesday, the Crown read multiple agreed statements of fact to the 12 jurors.

The first says that on Aug. 10, 2018, Raymond was living alone at 237 Brookside Dr., Building C, Apartment 11.

That day, he shot and killed the four people in the parking lot from inside his apartment with a Simonov SKS semi-automatic rifle. 

Robichaud was shot five times, with bullets hitting his head and abdomen. Wright was shot twice, including once in the head, while she was in her car. Costello was shot five times, including once in the chin area and once through his bullet-proof vest. Burns was shot twice in the head.

When the Crown described the number of times the victims were shot, some family members in the courtroom began crying.

Both sides also agree that Burns and Costello were working as police officers when they responded to shots being fired.

The sequence of events

The officers left the station at around 7 a.m. They drove across the St. John River and through the north side. Their sirens were on and they were in a marked vehicle. When they got to Brookside Drive, Burns said, "Right here, behind this car, there's a guy on the ground."

Two people were standing by Robichaud who was lying on the pavement behind a silver vehicle. The officers approached the body.

A shotgun and a semi-automatic rifle were entered into evidence Tuesday. The Crown and defence agree Raymond used the rifle to kill four people on Aug. 10, 2018. (Hadeel Ibrahim/CBC)

Burns said over her radio, "We're gonna need…" but communication was cut off as a gunshot rang out. A bullet struck Costello. Burns ducked to take cover. Multiple other shots were fired.

The final gunshot, fired about 37 minutes after the shooting started, was from an officer who shot Raymond through his window. He was arrested and taken to hospital.

Increasingly paranoid behaviour

Crown prosecutor Jill Knee said it's up to her team to prove Raymond had intent to kill the four people. 

She said the Crown will also be calling members of the emergency response team, who tried breaching the door at apartment 11 but found it barricaded.

She said they had to "climb over things to get to the accused."

Jurors took their place in the physically distanced jury box at the Fredericton Convention Centre. (Hadeel Ibrahim/CBC)

She also said police found hundreds of rounds in the apartment, as well as a 12-gauge shotgun. 

After Knee's opening statement, Breana Vandebeek with the defence approached the same podium facing the jury. She said the defence agreed to most of the details of the shooting to streamline the trial process, but first "because it's the truth," she said.

She said in the years before the attack, Raymond was becoming increasingly paranoid and estranged from his family. Police found a number of "strange" objects at his apartment, including notebooks where he had "various documents with incomprehensible calculations," numbers and drawings of serpents.

"Help and treatment was never sought," she said. "His delusions had taken over ... He wasn't sleeping."

She said he was spending hours performing the calculations using names of random and unrelated individuals. He believed people were coming into his apartment, moving his belongings, and he heard a consistent pounding on the walls.

She said he had a strange delusion of a child in the courtyard of his apartment complex, whispering to him something to the effect of "Come play, baby."

The defence will be calling psychiatrists to testify to Raymond's state of mind at the time of the murders.

Evidence entered

The first witness in the trial was Const. Stephane Sabourin with the RCMP major crimes unit in Fredericton. He's been keeping track of evidence involved in the shooting investigation.

Some of the exhibits presented by the Crown on Tuesday included a semi-automatic rifle and a 12-gauge shotgun taken from Raymond's living room. Police also found shotgun rounds and hundreds of rounds of different types of ammunition.

The defence presented other items including a black notebook inside Raymond's apartment with the mathematical calculations, and newspapers with "serpent" and "hoax" written on the front pages.

Matthew Raymond being brought into the Fredericton Convention Centre for the first day of his criminal trial. He stands accused of four counts of first-degree murder in the shooting deaths of Const. Sara Burns, Const. Robb Costello, Donnie Robichaud and Bobbie Lee Wright. (Shane Fowler/CBC)

Justice Larry Landry, in his instructions to the jury, explained everyone is presumed to be criminally responsible, so the defence will have burden of proof, but only on a balance of probabilities. That is a "lower  standard" than the Crown's burden to prove its case.

He said the jurors will have to ask themselves: Is it more likely than not that Raymond was suffering from a mental disorder at the time of the murders? And is it more likely than not that his mental disorder made him incapable at the time of appreciating the nature and quality of the act, or knowing it was wrong?

If both those criteria are satisfied, they could find him not criminally responsible.

The Crown intends to call 39 witnesses during the trial, which is scheduled to last four to six weeks.

Raymond is standing trial more than two years after the shooting. The case has been slowly moving through the court system, delayed partly by the COVID-19 pandemic, and his fitness to stand trial. He was found fit in August.

The jury chosen for the  trial was the first jury selected in Canada since the pandemic was declared.